By Todd McMichen
How has volunteerism gone for your church in 2020? I like to call it “serving generosity” and it certainly has seen its share of shifts this year.
First, most volunteer positions were parked on the sideline.
Then, while being parked at church, people naturally began serving those closest to them. They were somewhat forced to raise their game of serving family members during quarantine.
Then they began to notice their neighbors in need or co-workers being furloughed which created new volunteer opportunities.
Finally, our communities have been screaming with needs whether it’s small business owners struggling or nonprofits addressing social unrest.
Odds are the old sign-up list to volunteer as a weekly preschool worker has become an ineffective strategy in 2020 to engage serving generosity.
The appeal from pastors to raise volunteerism for the next big event is more quiet this year than most.
Nevertheless the opportunities for serving generosity haven’t completely disappeared. However, they have shifted and the shift is probably more permanent than we immediately recognized.
Here are some shifts you may want to discuss with your leadership team.
1. Shifting from obligation-oriented to lifestyle-oriented
Whether we like it or not, many church volunteers previously served out of obligation or loyalty to their local church ministries.
People were largely not engaged by passion or giftedness, but by the need.
While there is certainly something to be said for duty, it tends to create starting and stopping points.
These put pastoral staff members in the position of a shallow leadership bench with the pressure to always recruit for the next big event.
When on-campus church programming came to a halt the opportunity to serve moved to our homes, neighborhoods, and communities.
The opportunity to serve generously was right in front of us every day. People began assisting the vulnerable, supporting furloughed co-workers, and spending dedicated time investing in the lonely.
Serving became a lifestyle, not a position.
2. Shifting from on campus to in community
As church programming shifted you may have noticed new volunteer opportunities came to the surface, or at least old roles being repurposed.
Maybe you needed more help with technology than in the past or assistance with virtual church-wide communication.
Before long we all noticed our communities were hurting so we had to get creative in moving our volunteer energies from on campus church programming to supporting needs in our cities.
Our communities are screaming with needs which will be loud and present for the long haul.
Do you have a clear vision of community needs, how you can make a difference, and unleash your volunteers outward? We need more generous servants today than ever before.
3. Shifting from physical to mobile
Directing people to sign up in the bulletin, attend a volunteer enlistment event, or register in the foyer to serve is a failing strategy at this point.
However, mobile devices are still operating. They are actually more important to ministry than ever.
You have leveraged them to worship, connect, even lead small groups, but have you opened this channel to serving generosity?
We have just released an integrated app for every church that unleashes time, talent, and treasure generosity in one simple location.
Church leaders can now engage volunteers with weekly serving opportunities both within church programming and externally into the community. It is a visually appealing experience that blows a sign up list away.
Volunteers can not only locate a serving generosity opportunity that is meaningful to them, but they can make a one time or recurring financial gift to your church.
They can even donate non-cash items like cars, jewelry, and unused gift cards.
4. Shifting from program to kingdom
I suppose most church leaders have questioned what ministry success looks like in this season. It can no longer be measured by in person worship attendance or sprawling campuses.
Yet, the kingdom is just as active as ever. It’s scattered. It’s mobile. It’s virtual yet still powerful and real. The kingdom is advancing, not retreating.
I know pastors weren’t trained to be technology leaders. We need to see faces, extend a handshake, and hold the Word in our hands to feel like we are doing real ministry. But the kingdom is invisible.
We’ve always known that God wired His kingdom to be the mobile body of Christ that transforms society outside the walls of the church building.
Now, we’re living this mission more than ever and we need the tools to do it even better.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.
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